English Cathedral analysed by a Leica laser scanner

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A Leica laser scanner has been used by experts at The University of Nottingham in the UK to capture a detailed, virtual record of the interior of Lincoln Cathedral and reveal clues to its architectural past.

Existing floor plans for the historic monument are in excess of a century old and do not accurately represent the building as it stands today. The scan results will act as a digital blueprint to work from if any part of the building is ever damaged, helping to future-proof the cathedral for generations to come.

The completed scans also tie in with the £16m Lincoln Cathedral Connected project, which aims to tell the stories of the building in new ways and transform the site with a new visitor centre. Additionally, it is hoped that the scans could lead to the creation of a virtual tour of the cathedral, incorporating augmented reality, to allow visitors to see areas that are normally out of reach or have changed over the years.

Dr Lukasz Bonenberg, senior experimental officer at Nottingham University’s Geospatial Institute, led the scans at the cathedral in November to help build up a picture of the cathedral's architectural history.

A £70,000 Leica P20 laser scanning technology was used to measure how surfaces in its field of view reflect the laser light in order create colour-coded images that render the scene in 3D. The scanner can record up to half a million individual 3D measurement points on surfaces per second and can rotate 360 degrees in six minutes.

‘It would be almost impossible to use conventional methods to collect data on the same scale – something that would take weeks, if not months, took the scanner only a few hours to record,’ explained Bonenberg.

Scans of the cathedral nave were also taken, as it has no existing floor plan, along with the Chapter House interior and its 20-metre high roof. The scanner generated 300 million measurement points for the Chapter House alone. Using the latest Leica Cyclone 9.0 software, the scientists could acquire detailed virtual models of the cathedral interior and roof space.

‘From the computer model we hope to eventually develop a 3D-printed model of the Chapter House roof, which will help experts to answer questions about the roof's construction and how and why it has changed over the centuries without having to revisit the monument,’ added Bonenberg.

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Further information

Nottingham Geospatial Institute